|physics ν, μ a measure of the extent to which radiation is refracted on passing through the interface between two media. It is the ratio of the sine of the angle of incidence to the sine of the angle of refraction, which can be shown to be equal to the ratio of the phase speed in the first medium to that in the second. In the case of electromagnetic radiation, esp light, it is usual to give values of the absolute refractive index of a medium, that is for radiation entering the medium from free space|
refractive index n.
Abbr. n The ratio of the speed of light in air or in a vacuum to the speed of light in another medium.
measure of the bending of a ray of light when passing from one medium into another. If i is the angle of incidence of a ray in vacuum (angle between the incoming ray and the perpendicular to the surface of a medium, called the normal; see figure), and r is the angle of refraction (angle between the ray in the medium and the normal), the refractive index n is defined as the ratio of the sine of the angle of incidence to the sine of the angle of refraction; i.e., n = sin i / sin r. Refractive index is also equal to the velocity c of light of a given wavelength in empty space divided by its velocity v in a substance, or n = c/v.
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